JULIE LOVELL knows the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." She decided to participate in a fund-raiser for the Leukemia Society of America -- a 26.2-mile marathon.
On Jan. 9, Lovell will power-walk a course through the Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando, Fla. Until then, she has been counting the miles in three months of training in Key Largo, Fla., her new home.
Lovell, 24, was a standout athlete at Howard High School. The basement of her parents' home in Long Reach holds trophies and awards she received for soccer and lacrosse -- but not long-distance sports. Willis and "C.B." Lovell have lived in the east Columbia neighborhood for 20 years.
"I thought it would be cool to challenge myself," Lovell said, "vs. going to the gym without a goal to keep me focused."
The Leukemia Society supports her efforts through a program called Teams in Training. Professional trainers at each of the group's chapters offer help with conditioning, nutrition, proper footwear, race strategies and preventing injury.
The society sponsors marathons all over the world. Last year, more than 23,000 people participated.
Eighty percent of the funds raised go to research, patient aid and continuing education for medical professionals.
Marathoners in this race can run or walk. Each participant has a fund-raising goal. Lovell's is $1,500, and at last count she had raised $950. The funds are collected from "phantom marathoners" -- folks who write a check, then sit at home while Lovell and the others do the work.
According to the Team in Training's phantom marathon membership reply card, a donation of $26.20 ($1 a mile) "permits you to stay at home and miss the marathon."
A donation of $26.21 to $52.39 "entitles you to skip the marathon and the hundreds of miles of training." Donating larger amounts increases the benefit -- the more you donate, the less you have to do.
Lovell, who has a bachelor's degree in biology from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, has lived in Key Largo for eight months. She is an instructor at Marine Lab, a private, nonprofit marine biology program for 12- to 18-year-olds in Key Largo.
Her power-walk will benefit the society's South Florida chapter. Lovell is preparing for the marathon by power-walking the palm-lined streets of her new neighborhood according to a regimen set up by the trainers.
She expects to be able to maintain a pace of 14 minutes a mile.
"My goal is to finish in 5 1/2 hours," she said.
Once or twice a month, Lovell drives to Miami early on a Saturday to meet with other members of the Teams in Training program. They walk, talk and cheer each other on.
Recently, Lovell was seen in Long Reach walking purposefully along a path near Jackson Pond. Her visit to her family did not distract her from training. Lovell plowed through the late summer humidity with her head up, eyes front, arms swinging and the graceful stride required by her trainers in Florida.
"Julie always gives 100 percent to everything she does," said Willis Lovell (better known as "Burr.") "Mostly she is a pain, telling me to get off my butt and do something," he added with a wink and a smile.
Each marathon participant has an "honored patient" to inspire him or her. Lovell will wear the name Joel Green on a wristband during the race. He is a 10-year-old who was diagnosed with leukemia in April 1993.
According to Leukemia Society literature, leukemia is the No. 1 killer of children younger than age 15. Survival rates have improved from 4 percent in 1960 to 80 percent today.
Joel is undergoing treatment and is awaiting a second bone marrow transplant, if a donor can be found. He had his first transplant in January 1996.
Lovell received a biography of the boy with her training information packet. She hasn't met Joel, but she talks to his mother, Sue, frequently.
From the biography, Lovell learned that Joel lives with his parents and two older brothers, Joshua, 19, and John, 17. Because of his illness, he has been home-schooled through sixth grade. Like most boys his age, Joel likes to swim and play computer games.
"I pray each night thanking God for how well I'm doing and ask him to help my blood counts get better," Joel wrote to Lovell. "Thank you for running. I hope a cure can be found soon."
For information on Leukemia Society of America's Team in Training, go to Web site www.lsa-teamintraining.org.
Last year, when they were third-graders, Phelps Luck Elementary School pupils Kellie Dahl and Morgan Denhard decided they wanted to do a Type III project together.
Type III projects require children to find a problem and come up with a solution that will help solve it.
The girls thought it would be a good idea to spruce up the outside of Phelps Luck Elementary. They approached teacher Susan Hixon of the Gifted and Talented Program to be the faculty adviser for the project.
"We brainstormed ways to improve the grounds and made plans to improve the front," Kellie said.
Principal James Weisner liked the idea and found some money to help the girls buy a few plants for a small garden in front of the school.
But the school was in the middle of a construction project that had workmen digging up utility lines all over the place.
"Mr. Weisner suggested we start planning for the new addition," Kellie said.
Searching magazines for ideas, Kellie and Morgan saw a story in The Sun's Home and Garden section about the Dorsey Hall Garden Club. The club had helped nearby Waterloo Elementary complete a similar project, winning the Evelyn M. Cotton Maryland Conservation Award from the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland Inc.
Morgan called the club and was told it is always interested in school projects. "It gives our club great pleasure to educate children in the area about the importance of gardening for our environment and about the enjoyment they will derive from it," said Karen Carter, club vice president.
Carter, along with Carol Christens-Barry, Karen Griffith, Ann Marie Raterman and Ellen Millhollon, helped the children design the 6-foot-by-20-foot bed, sketching out the best plants for a butterfly garden.
On a bright morning last week, club members, students and parents spent two hours or so preparing and planting the garden. They installed bee balm, purple coneflower, coreopsis, lavender, black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush and other plants. Then busy little hands spread a thick layer of mulch carefully around the plants.
"It's a terrific activity for kids," said John Morningstar, Phelps Luck's new principal. Morningstar brought in black-eyed Susans from his garden to add to those donated by club member Ellen DeCaro.
Grandfathers Garden Center and Metzlers Nursery helped with extra discounts on garden supplies and plants.
As the plants grow, they will be divided and used in new beds around the school, creating an expanding habitat for butterflies.